UK leads the knowledge transfer world

Today, Unico - the UK’s leading knowledge transfer association – announces key findings of an important report recently published.  Through the work of the report,  ‘Metrics for the Evaluation of Knowledge Transfer Activities at Universities’, a new set of measurement tools is enabling universities to accurately measure the value of knowledge transfer activities (KT) for the first time.  Outcomes from the report reveal that the UK leads the world in terms of measuring the value of KT activities.

Professor David Secher, Unico Chairman said, “This report reveals that the UK is ahead of the US in addressing this difficult, but important, field of measuring the economic and social impact of knowledge transfer.  The proposed new measures may not be the last word as further work is needed but this report represents an important contribution that we are keen to share with the wider community for further development.”

KT activities, which facilitate the commercialisation of university-based research, are important in benefiting society and strengthening the economy.  Until now it has been difficult to gauge, with any accuracy, the value of KT activities, as there has been no consistent or common language.  Prior to the ‘Metrics’ report, international measures focused on the collection of revenues, obtained from licensing of Intellectual Property (IP), which is widely recognised as incomplete assessment of real value.  The work of the ‘Metrics’ report has enabled the UK to develop a much broader understanding of, and measurement system for,  the wide range of knowledge transfer activities that ultimately add value.

In the report, John Fraser of Florida State University said, “...the UK is more active at knowledge transfer than the US.”  Dana Bostrom of Portland State University added, “That whilst the US tends to only focus on technology transfer rather than knowledge transfer, the UK measures more knowledge transfer mechanisms and [I am] quite excited about the state of knowledge transfer in the UK.”

The report findings illustrate that UK universities are actively involved in knowledge transfer activities and that the UK performs competitively compared with the US and Canada when measured against:

  • licensing income market share
  • importance of licensing income to the total research income
  • number of spin-outs formed.

This project was only made possible thanks to funding, valuable input and support from:

  • Department of Innovation Universities and Skills (DIUS)
  • Research Councils UK (RCUK)
  • Scottish Funding Council
  • Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)
  • University of Glasgow (acting as project sponsor)

View report

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Notes to Editors

  1. Unico is the UK's leading representative body of professionals, realising the potential of university and public sector research through commercialisation.
  2. The Metrics for the Evaluation of Knowledge Transfer Activities at Universities report was commissioned by Unico with funding support from:
    Department of Innovation Universities and Skills
    Research Councils UK
    Scottish Funding Council
    Higher Education Funding Council for England.
  3. Department of Innovation Universities and Skills’ (DIUS) definition of Knowledge Transfer:
    Within a modern, knowledge driven economy, knowledge transfer is about transferring good ideas, research results and skills between universities, other research organisations, business and the wider community to enable innovative new products and services to be developed.
  4. Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) refers to Technology Transfer as the:
    Effective transfer of knowledge to improve UK innovation performance and accelerate business exploitation of science and new and existing technologies.

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